If we want to win the battle of ideas in the long term, we should be willing to face the fact that Mitt Romney is likely to lose — and should, given that he’s neither a true conservative nor a courageous moderate. He’s just an ambitious man. Nothing wrong with that, except when you want to be president. Great leaders combine ambition and ideas and conviction.
Margaret Thatcher was tough and unapologetic about what she believed. Ronald Reagan was tough and unapologetic about what he believed. They won their campaigns, changed their party and transformed their countries because they were conservatives who dared to tell voters they planned to radically transform their governments. They got elected and did just that.
Craven calculation, on the other hand, does not pay off for conservatives. Romney needed to decide long ago who he was: the last of the Rockefeller Republicans (and thus somebody who probably wouldn’t have gotten through Iowa) or a genuine movement conservative with detailed ideas about how to right the country.
Instead, we have a nominee who represents the worst of both worlds. Any swing voter attracted by moderate Republicanism can’t vote for a man who ran away from his core convictions. And conservative voters don’t believe Romney has any core convictions. This has all the makings of a Greek tragedy, all playing out on C-SPAN.